Feb. 29--Detroit transit riders outraged over huge bus cuts and Mayor Dave Bing's hiring of a private contractor to manage the city's troubled transportation department said Tuesday that they are fed up and will seek federal help in reversing the mayor's decisions.
Riders spoke out at the city council meeting Tuesday morning and at a news conference and brief rally later at the Rosa Parks Transit Center downtown. Just a few blocks away, a Michigan Senate committee was taking testimony on legislation to set up a regional board to coordinate transit and create a new system of rapid-transit buses. Supporters view it as a crucial step to reform public transportation in metro Detroit and stabilize city and suburban bus providers.
Irate riders said the crisis has battered the 160,000 daily riders of Detroit Department of Transportation and suburban SMART buses. But Detroit has been harder hit, with routes cut by half starting before Bing got into office. Now he is seeking to end service from 1-4 a.m. citywide starting Saturday.
"You people have a fiduciary responsibility for our safety. You are turning Detroit into a penitentiary, a penal colony," an angry Alonzo Chandler, a retired east-side autoworker, told the council. "You people need to give us some answers."
Speakers called on Bing to reverse the cuts and remove Parson Brinckerhoff, the consulting firm the city hired, as well as a subcontractor, Envisurage, which is handling the management of DDOT.
"We bring in consultants from outside this city ... and remove services that this city requires. How dare we do that?" said Stephen Boyle, an activist with the Occupy Detroit movement and Detroit resident.
Council members noted that the Bing administration made the cuts. Bing's office says the city can no longer afford to subsidize DDOT and has to make cuts to help Detroit avoid a state-appointed emergency manager.
Ida Byrd-Hill, president of a nonprofit educational group called Uplift in Detroit, said the city's public hearings last week on DDOT cuts weren't serious efforts to hear riders' concerns.
Byrd-Hill said the meetings were illegal because they were not announced with enough public notice, so she and other advocates said they would seek help from the U.S. Department of Transportation to stop the cuts and Bing's privatization of DDOT management.
"If they can't spend money, then eventually they will come to the table," Byrd-Hill said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Transportation Committee took testimony Tuesday afternoon from regional leaders at the offices of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments on a regional transportation authority plan backed by Bing, Gov. Rick Snyder and key suburban leaders.
Contact Matt Helms: 313-222-1450 or [email protected]
Copyright 2012 - Detroit Free Press